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The political identity of social workers in neoliberal times

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Neoliberalism has achieved a hegemonic position within social work, with consecutive governments extending the role of the market in welfare provision. This article explores these developments from the perspective of the political identity of 14 qualified social workers who are members of one of the UK's parliaments and councils, as well as engaged in political activism. It delineates the development of their social reformist political identity from their earliest days and considers the impact of facing the neoliberal dilemma in social work. The participants engaged in biographical interviews that traced the development of their political identity throughout their life course to date. The findings include: how embeddedness in politically engaged families forged strong political identities; how the skills acquired in social work were extremely useful in their political careers; and how the participants have managed to maintain a strong social work identity and resisted neoliberal austerity measures in their political careers.
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Keywords: BIOGRAPHY; NEOLIBERALISM; POLITICAL IDENTITY

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 March 2017

This article was made available online on 04 January 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "The political identity of social workers in neoliberal times".

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  • An International Journal

    Critical and Radical Social Work is an exciting new journal that will promote debate and scholarship around a range of engaged social work themes. The journal publishes papers which seek to analyse and respond to issues, such as the impact of global neo-liberalism on social welfare; austerity and social work; social work and social movements; social work, inequality and oppression, and understanding and responding to global social problems (such as war, disasters and climate change).

    It welcomes contributions that consider and question themes relating to the definition of social work and social work professionalism, that look at ways in which organic and 'indigenous' practice can expand concepts of the social work project and that consider alternative and radical histories of social work activity. As a truly international journal it actively encourages contributions from academics, scholars and practitioners from across the global village.

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